The Effects of Medicare Advantage on Opioid Use

The Effects of Medicare Advantage on Opioid Use

By
Laurence C. Baker, M. Kate Bundorf, Daniel P. Kessler
Journal of Health Economics. March
2020, Vol. 70

Despite a vast literature on the determinants of prescription opioid use, the role of health insurance plans has received little attention. We study how the form of Medicare beneficiaries’ drug coverage affects the volume of opioids they consume. We find that enrollment in Medicare Advantage, which integrates drug coverage with other medical benefits, significantly reduces beneficiaries’ likelihood of filling an opioid prescription, as compared to enrollment in a stand-alone drug plan. Approximately half of this effect was due to fewer fills from prescribers who write a very large number of opioid prescriptions.